Wow. What a game. Big Ben comes through in the clutch. Troy Polamalu looked like he was ready to live up to my billing as defensive MVP until the Madden Curse struck him. That doesn't bode well for young Larry Fitz. Last but not least, Jeff Reed is the man. With the AFC underway, it is now time to turn our attention to the NFC. How will the NFC West shape up? Will Jay Cutler help the Bears? How will Matty Ice fare in season 2? Who will win the NFC East dogfight (no pun intended)? Let's break it all down right now.
Surprise, surprise I like the Eagles to win the NFC East this year. In my opinion, their offense is going to be the best it has been since the year they had T.O. Jeremy Maclin and Desean Jackson are going to make Donovan McNabb's job a lot easier, Brent Celek is ready to become a big play tight end, and LeSean McCoy is going to help Brian Westbrook stay fresher and more effective. Not to mention the fact that the Birds replaced their aging offensive tackles with two young studs on both sides. This offense is primed. Oh yeah, and then there's that Vick guy. The defense is far less solid though. Jim Johnson, the rock of the defense, passed away in the spring and Brian Dawkins has left for the cesspool that is Denver. Moreover, signal caller Stewart Bradley is out for the season. This will be a lot to overcome for the Eagles, but they should be able to rise above the losses. I see them going about 11-5 and winning the NFC East.
The G-Men will challenge for the NFC East title but will ultimately fall short. We saw how they played without Plaxico last year, it looked like their offense had lost a dimension. I don't think that Domenik Hixon and Steve Smith present enough of a threat to keep the pressure off of Brandon Jacobs and Eli Manning. The G-Men offensive line is getting pretty old too. The Giants defense on the other hand will be stout. Justin Tuck and Osi "I quit" Umenyiora will create a nightmare pass rush, and the secondary should improve from last year. Bottom line, the Giants have the potential to be about 11-5 or 10-6. It's all gonna come down to Eli.
I like the Redskins to possibly challenge for a wild card spot as well this year, but ultimately fall short. Their defense is going to be absolutely nasty with Albert Haynesworth, Brian Orakpo, Carlos Rogers, LaRon Landry, DeAngelo Hall and Rocky McIntosh (great name). However, I think their offense might be positively dreadful. Jason Campbell, who I don't think is any good to begin with, only has Santana Moss, Chris Cooley and Malcolm Kelly as targets. Clinton Portis will have to have an amazing season if they are to succeed. In keeping with the highest paid team theory (which im pretty sure the Redskins have to be) I see the 'Skins going about 8-8 or 9-7 and falling short of the playoffs.
That leaves only the Cowboys. Read my lips, this will be Wade Phillips' last season in Dallas. I don't know why they've stuck with him for so long in the first place. He is a terrible coach. Moreover, I don't like that Tony Romo, who couldn't win with T.O and Roy Williams, has lost a target to throw to in the offseason. Do the Cowboys really want to rely on Tony Romo more? Hasn't he proven that he is incapable of being a leader under pressure? Despite all that, the Cowboys will be ok this year. Williams, Witten and Barber make for a decent offense, and their defense creates a lot of pressure with DeMarcus Ware and Marcus Spears. I just think this team is incapable of playing to its potential. I see Dallas going 7-9 or 6-10 and bringing the Phillips era to an end.
I am hoping that the Green Bay Packers will do me a huge favor and knock the Vikings off of the top spot in the NFC North. With Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and Donald Lee they certainly have enough offensive power. On defense I can see them coming out of nowhere to be one of the league's best with guys like A.J. Hawk, Nick Barnett, B.J. Rajii (lesssgoooeeegulls) and Aaron Kampman. If the Packers put it all together, they could certainly go 10-6 and win this division. This pick is more or less just a fuck you to Brett Favre and Jay Cutler though.
With news just in that Brett Favre might need to sit out a few games this season, I find myself even more disgusted with him. Name one successful team that had a QB that couldn't play every game, and had to shuttle in another one from time to time. Sounds like trouble in the making. Besides Brett Favre, of whom my opinion is well known, the Vikings offense is still a receiver away from being dominant. Percy Harvin could very well be that receiver. AP is going to have another amazing year and the Vikes will not struggle to score points. The defense, is again going to be stout. I am a pretty big Jared Allen fan and fear the Williamses up front. The secondary is also pretty solid. I think the Vikings season though will come down to a couple games, and a couple Brett Favre interceptions. The Vikings will probably go about 9-7 and would have been much better off with Tarvaris Jackson.
Speaking of quarterbacks I hate, that brings us to Da Bears. DAAAAAAAA BEARSSSSS. Even with Jay Cutler, the Bears still have no offense. Devin Hester and Earl Bennett are their starting wide receivers. I don't care who your starting QB is when these are his targets. Have fun Jay Cutler, you got your wish. If Jay Cutler was incapable of leading the one time 8-4 Broncos to the playoffs with Eddie Royal and Brandon Marshall, there is no way he will be able to take the Bears there. The Bears defense has also fallen off over the past few years. Brian Urlacher is no longer a top flight linebacker, and their once great secondary has fallen apart. I see the Bears at about 7-9 this year. A record that screams Cutler.
The Lions will be better this year! They burned me by not hiring a black coach, but they did do very well in the draft. Their offense will have a solid core for years to come with Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew. They just need to find a reliable running back. On defense they will do better, but still struggle. Detroit will go about 5-11 but is definitely on their way up.
Atlanta is going to be a very good team this year. Matty Ice now has an all pro target in Tony Gonzalez to throw to over the middle, along with Roddy White for the deep ball and Michael Turner at running back. This has all the makings of a great offense. The Falcons also drafted a number of defensive players in the early rounds who will certainly contribute to making their defense stronger than it was last year. I see the Falcons going 11-5 or 12-4 to secure the NFC South title.
They finished in last in the NFC South last year, but I see the Saints prolific offense carrying them to a wild card berth this year. Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks in the game, and with Devery Henderson, Marques Colston, Jeremy Shockey and yes, Reggie Bush firing on all cylinders the Saints will be able to outscore a lot of teams. On defense, the Saints have improved enough with the additions of Darren Sharper and draft pick Malcolm Jenkins to hold the other team's offense just enough. I see the Saints at about 10-6 sneaking into the wild card picture.
Let's get one thing clear, I have no respect for the Panthers. I have hated them ever since 2003 and I called the upset of the century last season when the Cardinals beat them in the playoffs. Unfortunately, I also hate the Cardinals now. The Panthers are almost the same team they were in 2008. However, the Falcons and the Saints both got better in the offseason so the Panthers will fall back in the NFC South. The Panthers seem content to ride Jake Delhomme forever, but I think he is past his prime. Also, Smash and Stash or whoever they are will be victimized by a much tougher schedule this year. The defense is solid but not spectacular. Look for the Panthers to go about 8-8 this year.
Then there were the Bucs. One win away from the playoffs last year it somehow all fell apart and Chucky got fired. Now it appears that they are in a rebuilding mode and don't show any signs of progress. Byron Leftwich is a terrible QB and they lost their top receiver Joey Galloway to free agency. Kellen Winslow and Cadillac Williams are not going to have much fun this year. On defense, team leader Derrick Brooks is gone and so is the reputation of the Bucs defense. Look for this team to be one of the worst in the league along with the Broncos. The Bucs will probably be about 3-13.
The NFC Champions are the favorite to win the NFC West again this year, but it might be closer than everyone thinks. With Polamalu out already, I am worried about Larry Fitz, and I might be the only one that still doubts Kurt Warner as a legitimate NFL QB. Chris Wells could surprise a lot of people at running back though. On defense, this team played over its head last year in the playoffs, although Antrel Rolle, Adrian Wilson, Bryan McFadden and Antonio Rogers-Cromartie make up the best secondary in the NFL. The front 7 is still susceptible to the run. I see the Cardinals playing more like the regular season Cardinals of last year and going 10-6 to take the NFC West.
Next in the West I like those pesky San Francisco 49ers. Let's face it, any team that has the constant threat of seeing Mike Singletary's bare ass at halftime is going to play their hearts out. If they can ever sign Michael Crabtree, they have the makings of a decent offense with him, Frank Gore, Vernon Davis, Isaac Bruce and Josh Morgan. It remains to be seen who will be the QB for this team though. I wouldn't be surprised to see Nate Davis out there in week 1. On defense, Patrick Willis is a legit stud, and Nate Clements can shut down a team's best WR. With 6 games against the NFC West, I can see the 49ers going 7-9 this year.
The Seahawks should play better this year, but I think they will finally found out that Matt Hasselbeck is done. T.J. Housmandzadeh, Nate Burleson and Deion Branch make for a solid receiving corps, but who will step up at running back? Edgerrin James and Julius Jones do not exactly strike fear into the hearts of defenses anymore. This will create a lot of pressure on Matty Rice. The defense will benefit from the addition of Aaron Curry, and Wrentham, MA native Lofa Tatupu should have another solid season. Their secondary and D-line are pretty weak though. The Hawks will play about even with the 49ers, going about 7-9 or 6-10.
Last but not least we have the Rams. With Torry Holt having departed via free agency, the glory days of the Rams are gone for good. Laurent Robinson, Donnie Avery and Randy McMichael are now the targets for Marc Bulger aka "Pinky". This will put the load on Stephen Jackson yet again and could lead to lowered numbers and injury. The defense will be bolstered by the addition of James Lauranaitis, but is still full of holes. Look for the Rams to bring up the rear in the NFC West at about 4-12.
Now that the regular season predictions are in, here are my wacky tacky playoff predictions:
Steelers beat Miami
Ravens beat Texans
Pats beat Steelers
Ravens beat Chargers
Pats beat Ravens
Cardinals beat Saints
G-Men beat Packers
Falcons beat G-Men
Eagles beat Cardinals
Falcons beat Eagles (again)
Patriots beat Falcons
Now that that is all said and done, let's enjoy some football!!!!